PBBM: Now that I have appointed my Secretary of Agriculture in the person of Mr. Kiko Tiu Laurel, a fishing magnate, I hope my critics will stop and help him instead to attain food sufficiency.
KA SONNY: Sir, my initial feedback is he may be an expert in fishing and its modernization but may be challenged in agriculture especially the rice industry. Nevertheless, we can only hope for the best for him, hoping that he will continuously consult with the stakeholders and consider their aspirations and..... even dreams. Sir, I hope that you will not forget it takes familiarity of the problem to provide a solution and if he will depend on his consultants, they may be academically prepared with all their credentials but most often they do not "walk the fields".
PBBM: In that case I will remind him to also consult not only with groups or consultants but also approach those who are "walking the fields" since they will also never approach him.
KA SONNY: Very true, Sir. These are the realities that Sec Laurel must be ready to face; even now they are saying he was appointed as a " pay back" not because he is qualified. I suspect that you are also lying between your teeth when you said that he knows the gravity of the inflationary problem as you do.
Moreover there are persons who believe that whatever they will suggest will not be implemented by him, and that he may have an agenda to expand into agribusiness from aqua business easily with his present position.
PBBM: What makes them think so?
KA SONNY: Simple, Mr. President. I do not know if you noticed during your stint that DA has what they call their banner programs. Following this setup, they expect the sitting DA Secretary to follow this tradition as you did (this is why they say you never introduced a DA reform measure). They then expect each region to implement all the programs and the DA Central through the Secretary allocates budgets to each region...as if distributing a pie depending on the regions’ request — although the common complaint of Regional Directors is the funds are never enough for each banner program.
Most often, it is because their bureaucracy is not "proactive" but is "reactive" since time immemorial, until President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., your father, came up with the Masagana 99 program and all regions had to "toe the line" and not work on their own. Unfortunately no programs of such magnitude or national importance were initiated by the succeeding Presidents even as we now doubled our population. Worse, the DA was emasculated with the devolution where all the extension workers were transferred to the local government units (LGUs). In effect DA was left with the generals and experts and had no soldiers.
PBBM: Ka Sonny. What then do you think should be the first step of Secretary Laurel.
KA SONNY: Simple, Sir. Stop the distribution of the DA budget by region. Instead Sec Laurel should ask his policy and planning office to form a NEW NORMAL in the department and instead look into pending proposals by NGO's requesting public investment (using consolidated DA budgets) to consolidate subsistence farms into modules to produce food and renewable energy following a circular economy.
Also he must not play politics with his bureaucrat managers and ask them to submit a courtesy resignation to you as they are all your appointees. Secretary Laurel will then recommend the most qualified among the CESO (Career Executive Service Office) as started by your father to maintain quality services from DA to the public as you pursue SPECIAL NATIONAL PROGRAMS FOR FOOD PRODUCTIVITY minus the MOOE of your office and the regions funded by billions added to the regular budget of DA during your stint.
PBBM: YES!!! Why did I not think of that before when I asked Congress to provide an additional P 100 B to the DA Budget? Now I did not even know where it went. It must have been added to the banner programs that had no self sufficiency goals and lost in the Politics of the Bureaucracy.
KA SONNY: Sir, because you never asked people like us who have been there and only got frustrated because of lack of support from the President which you did....by being the DA Secretary but you did not do it?
PBBM: Now Ka Sonny, you make me feel like an "idiot"
KA SONNY: No Sir, I did not mean that. In fact we all thought that you did the right thing and what was needed and it was a “touch of brilliance" that you did that first step and was very right "that only a President can reform DA" but you were overwhelmed by the problems and the advisers you got did not know what to advise you on what to do next as they were just YES men and did not really have the "down to earth" competency needed to also solve the small farmers’ problems.
They have made the farmers mendicants, hurting their pride having been independent of the Politics of Bureacracy of the DA. You just "missed the boat,” Sir. Sayang!
PBBM: OK now Ka Sonny. What should Sec Laurel do next?
KA SONNY: Again Sir, "read my lips" as I have been telling you in our previous conversations on DA problems published in the OpinYon.net every week.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Sonny Domingo is a member of the Board of Agriculture of the Professional Regulation Commission, Office of the President and previous to that was a GO 47 consultant to top corporations and foreign companies and a subsistence farmer from Barangay Guinabon, Sta. Cruz, Zambales and Senior Advisor on Farm Consolidation to former DA Secretary William Dar.)
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